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Preterm birth: the ophthalmic consequences


Anna R. O’connor

Directorate of Orthoptics and Vision Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool
About Anna R.
PhD BMedSci (Hons)
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Aim: There is a growing body of evidence evaluating the outcomes following preterm birth. Continued evaluation is essential to determine the impact of new treatments, which can affect many areas of development. Therefore this review aims to provide an evidence-based update on the ophthalmic sequelae of preterm birth.

Methods: A literature search of databases was performed, focusing on publications from the last 3 years.

Results: New treatments are being developed to prevent severe vision loss due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), but as they are so new no longterm data are available. The development of new imaging techniques has allowed detailed analysis of the visual pathway, with changes in the posterior visual pathway identified and linked to visual function. Deficits of visual function in the preterm population extend beyond visual acuity, affecting functional ability in many ways, even in the presence of a normal visual acuity response. Strabismus rates continue to be increased but do not appear to have changed in recent years. Overall the literature agrees that preterm birth affects a range of ophthalmic outcomes, but there continues to be a lack of consensus as to what follow-up care is required.

Conclusions: Children born preterm are at continued risk of developing a range of ophthalmic sequelae but new techniques are being applied to determine their aetiology. Novel treatments for ROP have shown promise in reducing severe visual impairments, but many questions remain regarding the nature of more subtle deficits of visual functions and how they should be identified.

How to Cite: O’connor, A.R., 2011. Preterm birth: the ophthalmic consequences. British and Irish Orthoptic Journal, 8, pp.3–9. DOI:
Published on 01 Aug 2011.
Peer Reviewed


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